Northwest nuclear plant refueled and back online, officials say

RICHLAND, Wash. — Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station has finished its 25th biennial refueling operations, according to a news release.

Officials said the nuclear power plant reconnected to the Northwest power grid at 12:25 a.m. on Saturday, June 19th.

Turbine Rotor 1

Outage workers Jeremy Zohn (left) of Pasco and Rip Logan of Oregon clean the low-pressure turbine rotor prior to installation during Columbia Generating Station’s biennial outage. About 1,400 skilled temporary workers were hired to support planned maintenance and refueling.

The outage brought over 1,400 temporary workers to the area to complete the refueling process. Workers did everything from preventative maintenance on equipment to major system upgrades, the release said.

“The team completed a tremendous amount of work over the past several weeks,” said Grover Hettel, Energy Northwest chief nuclear officer. “Getting Columbia back online after a refueling is always a significant achievement that we’re proud of because of the carbon-free electricity the plant provides for the region.”

Nuclear 1

Columbia Generating Station, owned and operated by Energy Northwest, is a boiling water reactor located about 10 miles north of Richland, Washington. Columbia produces 1,207 MWe of carbon-free electricity, enough to power about a million homes.

Workers and operators replaced 260 of the 764 nuclear fuel assemblies in the reactor core with new fuel.

“The fuel that had been in the reactor core for six years was placed in the adjacent fuel pool, where the assemblies will remain for a minimum of five years to remove residual heat and await being moved to Columbia’s on-site dry cask storage,” the statement said.

Workers perform maintenance at Columbia Generating Station

Energy Northwest employees Kyle Morris (right) and Todd Gleave work on a condensate pump in June as part of scheduled maintenance during Columbia Generating Station’s biennial outage.

In addition to replacing fuel cells, workers also performed tasks that can only be completed while the station is offline.